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Summary Consequentialists take the value of outcomes to ground or explain other important normative properties such as the rightness of acts. Act Utilitarianism, the view that we should maximize well-being (or "happiness"), is perhaps the paradigmatic form of consequentialism.  But many alternatives have been developed, as found under the "Varieties of Consequentialism" sub-category.  An obvious dimension of variation concerns the consequentialist's axiology or conception of the good -- what is to be promoted.  (Allowing agent-relative values, especially, can lead to dramatic divergence from the impartial welfarism of traditional utilitarianism.)  But there are also many different proposals concerning the relation between value and other normative properties, as seen, for example, in the debate between act and rule consequentialists. A lot of work has been done assessing a variety of arguments against consequentialism.  Less has been said (either positively or negatively) about arguments for consequentialism.
Key works The classical texts are Mill's Utilitarianism and Sidgwick 1907.  The contemporary debate owes much to Bernard Williams' criticisms in Smart & Williams 1973.  Especially significant developments occur in Parfit 1984Railton 1984, and Pettit & Smith 2000.
Introductions Smart & Williams 1973 offers an accessible introduction to the debate over utilitarianism, in particular.
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  1. Jonathan E. Adler (1993). Book Review:Moral Legislation: A Legal-Political Model for Indirect Consequentialist Reasoning Conrad D. Johnson. [REVIEW] Ethics 103 (4):814-.
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  2. Richard J. Arneson (2002). The End of Welfare As We Know It? Scanlon Versus Welfarist Consequentialism. Social Theory and Practice 28 (2):315-336.
    A notable achievement of T.M. Scanlon's What We Owe to Each Other is its sustained critique of welfarist consequentialism. Consequentialism is the doctrine that one morally ought always to do an act, of the alternatives, that brings about a state of affairs that is no less good than any other one could bring about. Welfarism is the view that what makes a state of affairs better or worse is some increasing function of the welfare for persons realized in it. I (...)
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  3. R. W. Beardsmore (1986). Common-Sense Morality and Consequentialism. Philosophical Books 27 (2):116-118.
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  4. Arnold Burms (2009). Disagreement, Perspectivism, Consequentialism. Ethical Perspectives 16 (2):155-163.
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  5. Zeljka Buturovic (2012). Deep Down: Consequentialist Assumptions Underlying Policy Differences. Critical Review 24 (2):269-289.
    A conditional survey establishes a preliminary case for believing that policy differences are to some extent driven by fundamental beliefs about empirical aspects of society and economics. The survey shows willingness in about a third of all respondents to shift their expressed policy preferences when asked a hypothetical question positing negative consequences of their initial preferences. This suggests that assumptions about the consequences of public policies may play as important a role in policy preferences, or a more important role, than (...)
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  6. David Elliott (1999). Against the Leveling of Virtue: Essentials of a Consequentialist Account. Journal of Social Philosophy 30 (1):65-82.
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  7. Ted Honderich (1996). Consequentialism, Moralities of Concern, and Selfishness. Philosophy 71 (278):499 - 520.
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  8. Nien-Hê Hsieh, Alan Strudler & David Wasserman (2006). The Numbers Problem. Philosophy and Public Affairs 34 (4):352 - 372.
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  9. Dreier Jamie (ed.) (2006). Contemporary Debates in Moral Theories. Blackwell Publishers.
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  10. F. M. Kamm (2000). Collaboration and Responsibility. Philosophy and Public Affairs 28 (3):169-204.
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  11. Irfan Khawaja (2005). Consequentialism. Teaching Philosophy 28 (3):281-284.
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  12. Jacqueline A. Laing (ed.) (1997). Human Lives Critical Essays on Consequentialist Bioethics. Macmillan.
    This book aims to redress the imbalance in moral philosophy created by the dominance of consequentialism and utilitarianism, the view that criterion of morality is the maximisation of good effects over bad without regard to intrinsic rightness or wrongness. This approach has become the orthodoxy over the last few decades particularly in bioethics, where moral theory is applied to bioethics. Human Lives critically examines the assumptions and arguments of consequentialism reviviing in the process such concepts as rights, justice, innocence, natural (...)
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  13. Robert McKim (1992). Consequentialism, Incoherence and Choice. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 66 (1):93-98.
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  14. Kai Nielsen (1994). Methods of Ethics:Wide Reflective Equilibrium and a Kind of Consequentialism. Journal of Social Philosophy 25 (2):57-72.
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  15. Sven Nyholm (2014). Ingmar Persson, From Morality to the End of Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), Pp. 336. [REVIEW] Utilitas 26 (3):321-325.
    Persson argues that common sense morality involves various “asymmetries” that don’t stand up to rational scrutiny. (One example is that intentionally harming others is commonly thought to be worse than merely allowing harm to happen, even if the harm involved is equal in both cases.) A wholly rational morality would, Persson argues, be wholly symmetrical. He also argues, however, that when we get down to our most basic attitudes and dispositions, we reach the “end of reason,” at which point we (...)
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  16. Francesco Orsi (2012). David Ross, Ideal Utilitarianism, and the Intrinsic Value of Acts. Journal for the History of Analytic Philosophy 1 (2).
    The denial of the intrinsic value of acts apart from both motives and consequences lies at the heart of Ross’s deontology and his opposition to ideal utilitarianism. Moreover, the claim that acts can have intrinsic value is a staple element of early and contemporary attempts to “consequentialise” all of morality. I first show why Ross’s denial is relevant both for his philosophy and for current debates. Then I consider and reject as inconclusive some of Ross’s explicit and implicit motivations for (...)
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  17. Philip Pettit (2012). A Question for Tomorrow: The Robust Demands of the Good. Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 7 (3):7-12.
  18. Margrit Shildrick (2003). Book Review: Jonathan Glover. Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001. [REVIEW] Hypatia 18 (2):227-229.
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  19. Sarah Stroud (2001). Moral Commitment and Moral Theory. Journal of Philosophical Research 26:381-398.
    This paper examines the nature of what I call moral commitment: that is, a standing commitment to live up to moral demands. I first consider what kind of psychological state moral commitment might be, arguing that moral commitment is a species of commitment to a counterfactual condition. I explore the general structural features of attitudes of this type in order to shed light on how moral commitment might function in an agent’s motivational economy. I then use this understanding of moral (...)
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Utilitarianism
See also: Utility, Well-Being
  1. Ernest Albee (1896). The Relation of Shaftesbury and Hutcheson to Utilitarianism. Philosophical Review 5 (1):24-35.
  2. Lincoln Allison (ed.) (1990). The Utilitarian Response: The Contemporary Viability of Utilitarian Political Philosophy. Sage Publications.
    "Nearly all the essays are theoretically informed, argumentative, and exceptionally interesting; nearly all try to paint the merits (and demerits) of utilitarianism as a political philosophy in the light of attempted solutions to theoretical problems that are explored in some detail. The result is a searching, thoughtful volume." --Ethics "The Utilitarian Response is unique in the breadth of problems and questions in utilitarian theory covered. It is more suggestive of strategies by which contemporary utilitarianism could be improved than a comprehensive (...)
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  3. Michael J. Almeida (1992). The Paradoxes of Feldman's Neo-Utilitarianism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 70 (4):455 – 468.
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  4. Íñigo Álvarez Gálvez (2009). Utilitarismo y Derechos Humanos: La Propuesta de John Stuart Mill. Plaza y Valdés.
    Se dice que el utilitarismo es incompatible con la defensa de los derechos humanos, pues la búsqueda del mayor bien para el mayor número que prescribe el utilitarismo, puede exigir, en ocasiones, pasar por encima de los derechos. Sin embargo, quizá sea posible ofrecer una solución al conflicto presentando una doctrina utilitarista, reconocible como tal, que sea lo suficientemente amplia como para dar cabida a los derechos. La presente obra tiene como objeto exponer la doctrina de John Stuart Mill como (...)
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  5. A. T. Anchustegui (2005). Biocentric Ethics and Animal Prosperity. International Journal of Applied Philosophy 19 (1):105-119.
    Singer’s utilitarian and Regan’s deontological views must be rejected because: (1) they rely on criteria for moral standing that can only be known a priori and (2) if these criteria were successful, they’d be too restrictive. I hold that while mental properties may be sufficient for moral standing, they are not necessary. (3) Their criteria of moral standing do not unambiguously abrogate needless harm to animals. I defend a theory of biocentric individualism that upholds the principle of species egalitarianism while (...)
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  6. John Anderson (1932). Utilitarianism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 10 (3):161 – 172.
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  7. Linda F. Annis (1986). Merit Pay, Utilitarianism, and Desert. International Journal of Applied Philosophy 3 (1):33-41.
  8. Lennart Åqvist (1969). Improved Formulations of Act-Utilitarianism. Noûs 3 (3):299-323.
    The article deals with two problems that arise within moorean style act-utilitarianism (a.u.): (i) how is the notion of 'the alternatives to' a particular action to be explicated? (ii) how should a.u. be formulated in order for it to validate the laws of standard deontic logic? it is argued that these intertwined problems can be solved only if the traditional formulations a a.u. are rejected in favor of some new and more viable ones. in the literature the two problems seem (...)
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  9. A. Revised Impracticability Argument (1994). Act Utilitarianism and Decision Procedures. Utilitas 6 (1).
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  10. Richard Arneson, Introduction to Rawls on Justice and Rawls on Utilitarianism.
    According to Rawls, the principles of justice are principles that determine a fair resolution of conflicts of interest among persons in a society. “A set of principles is required for choosing among the various social arrangements which determine this division of advantages and for underwriting an agreement on the proper distributive shares” (p. 4). Different interpretations or conceptions of justice fill out this core concept; a theory of justice seeks a best conception. Justice takes priority over other normative claims—as Rawls (...)
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  11. Richard Arneson, Rawls Versus Utilitarianism in the Light of Political Liberalism.
    The critique of utilitarianism forms a crucial subplot in the complex analysis of social justice that John Rawls develops in his first book, A Theory of Justice.1 The weaknesses of utilitarianism indicate the need for an alternative theory, and at many stages of the argument the test for the adequacy of the new theory that Rawls elaborates is whether it can be demonstrated to be superior to the utilitarian rival. The account of social justice shifts in the transition to Rawls’s (...)
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  12. Nomy Arpaly (2002). The Utilitarian's Song. Utilitas 14 (01):1-.
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  13. Gustaf Arrhenius (2003). Feldman's Desert-Adjusted Utilitarianism and Population Ethics. Utilitas 15 (02):225-.
    Fred Feldman has proposed a desert-adjusted version of utilitarianism, , as a plausible population axiology. Among other things, he claims that justicism avoids Derek Parfit's . This paper explains the theory and tries to straighten out some of its ambiguities. Moreover, it is shown that it is not clear whether justicism avoids the repugnant conclusion and that it is has other counter-intuitive implications. It is concluded that justicism is not convincing as a population axiology.
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  14. Elizabeth Ashford (2005). Utilitarianism with a Humean Face. Hume Studies 31 (1):63-92.
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  15. Robert B. Ashmore (1987). Utility and Rights. Edited by R. G. Frey. Modern Schoolman 64 (2):122-124.
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  16. Robert Audi (2007). Can Utilitarianism Be Distributive? Maximization and Distribution as Criteria in Managerial Decisions. Business Ethics Quarterly 17 (4):593-611.
    Utilitarianism is commonly defined in very different ways, sometimes in a single text. There is wide agreement that it mandates maximizing some kind of good, but many formulations also require a pattern of distribution. The most common of these take utilitarianism to characterize right acts as those that achieve “the greatest good for the greatest number.” This paper shows important ambiguities in this formulation and contrasts it (on any plausible interpretation of it) withthe kinds of utilitarian views actually defended by (...)
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  17. Guy Axtell, Utilitarianism and Dewey's “Three Independent Factors in Morals”.
    The centennial of Dewey & Tuft’s Ethics (1908) provides a timely opportunity to reflect both on Dewey’s intellectual debt to utilitarian thought, and on his critique of it. In this paper I examine Dewey’s assessment of utilitarianism, but also his developing view of the good (ends; consequences), the right (rules; obligations) and the virtuous (approbations; standards) as “three independent factors in morals.” This doctrine (found most clearly in the 2nd edition of 1932) as I argue in the last sections, has (...)
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  18. James Wood Bailey (2001). William H. Shaw, Contemporary Ethics: Taking Account of Utilitarianism, Oxford, Blackwell, 1999, Pp. 311. Utilitas 13 (01):134-.
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  19. James Wood Bailey (1997). Utilitarianism, Institutions, and Justice. Oxford University Press.
    This book is a rebuttal of the common charge that the moral doctrine of utilitarianism permits horrible acts, justifies unfair distribution of wealth and other social goods, and demands too much of moral agents. Bailey defends utilitarianism by applying central insights of game theory regarding feasible equilibria and evolutionary stability of norms to elaborate an account of institutions that real-world utilitarians would want to foster. With such an account he shows that utilitarianism, while still a useful doctrine for criticizing existing (...)
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  20. John M. Baker (1971). Utilitarianism and "Secondary Principles". Philosophical Quarterly 21 (82):69-71.
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  21. Stephen W. Ball (1987). Choosing Between Choice Models of Ethics: Rawlsian Equality, Utilitarianism, and the Concept of Persons. Theory and Decision 22 (3):209-224.
  22. Stephen W. Ball (1986). Economic Equality: Rawls Versus Utilitarianism. Economics and Philosophy 2 (02):225-.
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  23. Y. Michael Barilan (2004). Towards a Dialogue Between Utilitarianism and Medicine. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 7 (2):163-173.
    Utilitarianism focuses on the optimization of personal well being in ways that seems to make the practice of medicine irrelevant to the well being of the practitioners, unless given external incentives such as money or honor. Care based on indirect incentives is considered inferior to care motivated internally. This leads to the paradox of utilitarian care. Following Nozick's conceptual Pleasure Machine it is argued that in addition to the promotion of personal well being, people care about fulfilling their well being (...)
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  24. Jonathan Baron (1998). Utilitarianism as a Public Philosophy, Robert E. Goodin. Cambridge University Press, 1995, 352 + Xii Pages. Economics and Philosophy 14 (01):151-.
  25. Jonathan Baron (1996). Norm-Endorsement Utilitarianism and the Nature of Utility. Economics and Philosophy 12 (02):165-.
    In this article, I shall suggest an approach to the justification of normative moral principles which leads, I think, to utilitarianism. The approach is based on asking what moral norms we would each endorse if we had no prior moral commitments. I argue that we would endorse norms that lead to the satisfaction of all our nonmoral values or goals. The same approach leads to a view of utility as consisting of those goals that we would want satisfied. In the (...)
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  26. Robin Barrow (1975). Plato, Utilitarianism and Education. Routledge and Kegan Paul.
    Introduction I i Plato's critics The view that I shall put forward is that utilitarianism is the only acceptable ethical theory and that this was recognised ...
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  27. Brian Barry (1989). Utilitarianism and Preference Change. Utilitas 1 (02):278-.
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  28. Robert Bass (2012). Lives in the Balance: Utilitarianism and Animal Research. In Jeremy Garrett (ed.), The Ethics of Animal Research: Exploring the Controversy. MIT Press.
    In the long history of moral theory, non-human animals—hereafter, just animals—have often been neglected entirely or have been relegated to some secondary status. Since its emergence in the early 19th century, utilitarianism has made a difference in that respect by focusing upon happiness or well-being (and their contraries) rather than upon the beings who suffer or enjoy. Inevitably, that has meant that human relations to and use of other animals have appeared in a different light. Some cases have seemed easy: (...)
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  29. Gregory Bassham (2000). Utilitarianism. Teaching Philosophy 23 (2):210-213.
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  30. Edward F. Becker (1975). Justice, Utility, and Interpersonal Comparisons. Theory and Decision 6 (4):471-484.
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  31. H. A. Bedau (1992). Hardin's Utilitarianism. Utilitas 4 (02):317-.
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